As the gubernatorial elections hold in Kogi and Bayelsa states today, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has charged political actors and the security agencies to do more to stem the tide of political violence ravaging the two states even before the polls commences.
In a statement by its management, the CDD Director, Idayat Hassan made the call while speaking at a pre-election briefing held at the Election Analysis Centre (EAC) in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
Hassan warned that the tension in the two states is capable of undermining voter confidence and turnout and the credibility of the entire election process.
She said the CDD’s observation of the pre-election environment points to a very volatile political environment characterised by fierce rhetorics threats of violence and actual incidents of violence.
“A case in point is the recent attack on the State Secretariat of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), whose governorship candidate, Natasha Akpoti is one of the only three women contesting for the governorship election,” the statement said.
The statement further observed that such vicious political attacks in the state are capable of further discouraging marginalised groups, especially women from participating in the political process and particularly from contesting for political office.
Similarly, it condemned the violent attack on a political rally in Nembe, Bayelsa State, warning that being the first set of off-cycle elections after the 2019 polls, the character of the electoral processes and outcomes in Kogi and Bayelsa States will serve as a litmus test to assess if the key lessons and experiences from the 2019 general elections have been applied to make subsequent elections credible.
The Director noted preparations by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and called on the electoral umpire to leave no stone unturned to deliver a credible polls in the two states.
“The welfare of ad-hoc staff, especially youth corps members should be treated with utmost serious urgency because the welfare of INEC ad-hoc is critical to the successful conduct of the election.
“INEC to consider making special arrangements, including hiring security if there are gaps in providing cover from the normal channels.”
“As experience in previous elections, including the 2019 general elections has shown, without effective oversight, the security agencies could forget their responsibilities and begin to act in connivance with partisan interests to subvert the electoral process.”
The CDD also shared its observation on the threat posed by fake news, misinformation and disinformation, saying the centre has been working on countering fake news and disinformation in Kogi and Bayelsa state ahead of the elections.
“Our monitoring revealed the instrumentalization of fake news and disinformation by the leading political parties. The parties created a structure comprising of false news proponents referred to as the Shekpe boys and the data boys. Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are the leading platforms used to spread disinformation.
“CDD monitoring revealed disinformation is tailored to serve several purposes; notably to hurt an opponent, to delegitimize INEC, to counter an attack, to divert attention from critical issues and always seek to gain attention by becoming viral.
She therefore urged all politicians to engage in an issue-based campaign instead of de-campaigning their opponents, noting that the rising incidents of violent attacks, vote-buying and intimidation of rival camps make it imperative for the security agencies involved in the process to act with decisiveness and utmost professionalism.”